by Immortalwildcat and Martin Maenza
“We have the targets sighted, and the missiles are armed, Excellency. We await only your command.”
“One moment.” Qatar Hussein turned to his special advisor. “Are you sure about this tactic of yours? Would it not be wiser to launch attacks from all four of our facilities at once?”
“Ah, I see you’ve been reading The Art of War again, haven’t you? The old samurai makes sense on a lot of things, O fearless leader, but he never tangled with high-tech weaponry before.” The Joker crouched down next to the chair where the Quraci leader sat. “Trust me on this one, and launch everything we’ve got from site one. Then sit back and watch the fireworks.”
“Very well, then.” Hussein turned back to the front of the room. “In the name of blessed Allah, let us launch the attack! Now!”
On one of the television screens at the front of the room, fire blossomed in the desert. A dozen missiles shot up from their launchers, followed two minutes later by another volley. Other screens followed the progress of the armaments across the wind-blasted plains out of the country and into neighboring Saudi Arabia. A screen tuned to GNN’s Middle Eastern channel showed the base established by the Alien Alliance near Bahrain. A commentator’s running monologue on losses to the overwhelming forces was interrupted by the screech of sirens and the roar of incoming missile fire. The first grounded ship to be struck was pierced near the control room.
“Unfortunately, it appears that the missiles which are striking the ships here are not exploding. The damage cause is minimal. We have no word yet on who is responsible for this valiant, if ineffective, counterstrike.” The reporter turned as he heard voices from the area where the ships stood. “One moment here. Something seems to be happening.”
“You bet your sweet bippy something’s happening, you old Scud-stud, you!” The Joker was back up on his feet, dancing with anticipation. “Oh, you have to show it, boys, please, please show it!”
On the nearest ship, a hatch opened. Several dozen aliens swarmed out, only to collapse on the ground in agony. “It would appear that the missiles were carrying some sort of viral payload, which is taking a toll on the alien life forms.” The reporter touched his hand to his ear. “This just in: it appears that these missiles, which you see behind me striking the alien ships, were launched just moments ago from somewhere in, umm, Qurac?” The reporter looked up, somewhat confused. “Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it would appear that Qurac is coming to the rescue of its Middle Eastern neighbors. More on this startling development as we receive details.”
“Yes! Oh, look at that! Isn’t that just the prettiest sight you’ve ever seen?” The Joker grabbed Qatar Hussein’s shoulder and pointed at the screen. Aliens were pouring from the ships now, their bodies smoking and bubbling.
A speaker on one of the control panels started beeping. The attention of everyone in the room was drawn to the screen showing the launch site. A single missile streaked into the image, visible for only a second before it struck one of the launchers. In a burst of fire and debris, the entire installation was destroyed.
“By the Prophet!” murmured Hussein. Turning to the Joker, he said, “You knew that would happen! You knew they could trace the path of the missiles back to us this quickly!”
“Oh, I didn’t know for sure, but I thought it was a safe bet. And no use wasting ordinance when there are more bug-eyed freaks to kill, right?”
A wolfish smile came across Hussein’s face. “Indeed.” Raising his voice, he commanded, “Prepare site two for launching!”
“Come on, everyone,” Dove said in an even but urgent tone. “We have to get you all moving.” She held open the cage door as kidnapped humans moved by her. She felt a little sad, especially for the young children who’d had to endure this horrible experience. Still, the people were alive and would be returned home if they were successful.
“All aboard the Metal Men Express,” Gold called out from his head, which stuck out from the front of combined creation of the robots. Indeed, Tin, Platinum and Gold worked out their bodies to be large cars capable of holding a good number of the captives. Iron had made himself into the wheels to move the whole contraption. Lead was a turbine engine being heated by the volatile Mercury.
“Be careful getting settled,” Ice replied. The heroine from Norway had provided the ice to be melted to make the steam to move the rescue vehicle.
“Better move out!” Hawk yelled from the far end of a corridor. “I hear the sound of company coming!” Hoisting up the blaster he’d picked up earlier, the hero was ready to do whatever it took to get these people back to the transports.
“Go!” Dove said once the train was full. “We’ll move the rest of these folks on foot to the next captive point. Meet us there.”
“Right,” said Gold. “Move it out!” The train took off in a rumble.
At another point, more of the prisoners were being released from their cells. Metamorpho craned his neck around, taking in the crowd with wide-eyed scrutiny. Then, his concerned grimace softened as he saw a blonde figure. “Sapphire!” he exclaimed.
The element man transmuted his body into gas and moved zigzag through the crowd toward the woman. He re-formed around her, holding her in a tight embrace. “Rex, baby!” Sapphire Stagg-Mason replied. She gave him a great big hug and kiss. “Thank God you’re here!”
“You know it, baby!” Metamorpho said. “You know I wasn’t gonna lose you!” The couple continued their reunion as others were ushered out of the captive cells.
“Batman! Batman!” Snapper Carr yelled, waving his hands. The Caped Crusader nodded and moved through the group. “Great! The Justice League found us!”
“You’re the last person I expected to see here,” Batman replied. He noticed his old foe the Penguin move by; the criminal gave the hero a glance, then continued to move with the others. Batman then saw another figure he recognized and pulled him over. “Chance! There you are. I’m sorry you got abducted while doing that favor for me at the prison.”
“Hazards of my business,” the dark-haired man with graying temples replied. “Just glad to see you all.”
“You’ve done some piloting, right?”
“Yes,” said Christopher Chance. “Why?”
“Might need your help there,” Batman replied. “If we need more than one transport to get everyone off of Pluto, I might need to tap you to assist.”
“You can count on me,” Chance replied.
“Batman, there are others not with the main groups!” Snapper exclaimed.
“Others?” Batman asked. “Where and why?”
“Those yellow-headed aliens had taken all of us from Earth do some experimentation,” Snapper explained. “Some folks we never saw again after they were taken. Others, I assume the ones who made it through the process were shuffled off to a different place of detention.”
“Experiments!” Batman said. The thought of that disturbed him. For what purpose? “Where were they taken to, and where are the labs?”
“The labs are down that corridor,” Snapper said, pointing to the right. “And the others were then taken somewhere down that way.” He pointed to the left. “I’ll take you there.”
Batman nodded. He’d have to split up his team to investigate those two avenues. Luckily there were folks like Snapper and Chance who could assist with the evacuation proceedings. It made sense now as to why the Earth people had been taken to this prison; the bigger question was: to what end were these experiments being done?
In a laboratory below the surface of Pluto, two thin aliens in green robes with large yellow heads and pointed ears worked before a console. In a tank of bubbling liquid in front of them, with wires and electrodes attached to his floating body, was a Japanese sumo wrestler named Taro Raiden. This nine-foot-tall giant wearing only trunks was the Hybrid member known as Behemoth.
One of the aliens said, “The data transferenccce isss complete. All we’ve learned from our experimentsss here have been sssafely transssmitted back to the homeworld.”
The other Dominator pointed to an indicator on the panel before them. “We mussst hurry! The sssensssors indicate a sssecurity breach!”
“Don’t presssume to tell me the obviousss, lowling!” the first Dominator snapped. “After all, isss not my ranking in the cassste higher than yoursss?” He referred, of course, to the size of the red circles on their foreheads; this one’s was obviously bigger than the other.
“I meant no disssressspect,” the other said, lower his head.
“Good! Then we ssshall make hassste to the essscape ssshuttles! The auto dessstruct will sssoon be engaged! We have no further ussse for this facccility.”
“What of thisss one?” the lower-caste Dominator asked of the man in the tank.
“I care!” a voice called out from the ventilation shaft. Both Dominators turned in time to see a six-inch figure dressed in camouflage pants, a black top, and black mask flying toward them. “Your experimentation ends now!” The Atom dived toward one of the aliens, adjusting his weight controls as he went. This allowed him to deliver a blow of that of a normal-size human male with his punch, despite his reduced size.
The Dominator whose jaw his punch connected to fell back from the blow. “Ooofff!” he gasped as he landed upon the console. “No more violenccce, pleassse!” His struggling to regain his stance caused him to brush against a number of controls.
Lights began to flash on the console as current shocked through the electrodes attached to Behemoth. The liquid churned, and the giant’s body convulsed.
“Uh-oh,” one of the Dominators said.
“Uh-oh?” the Atom repeated.
Behemoth’s eyes sprang open with a look of rage and terror. His mighty arms slashed out, pounding against the tubing. His legs thrust out too, again and again. The tubing cracked, then exploded outward.
“No! No!” the Dominators cried. “The dosssage was uncontrolled!”
Behemoth let out a might roar and lunged toward his persecutors. His mighty hands reached out with great speed and grabbed the two aliens. Both hands squeezed hard and fast, squishing the two Dominators as if they were mere insects. Their body excretions splattered across the lab walls as he tossed the carcasses aside.
Behemoth let out another roar, appearing to the Atom as if he were some kind of savage, mindless beast. Behemoth’s next action confirmed that; the Asian charged right through the wall of the lab and took off in a rampage.
“Atom to Batman, Atom to Batman,” the small hero called on his JLA signaler.
The Caped Crusader put his hand to his ear. “Come in, Atom,” he said as he surveyed the room he was in with some of the others. He, Katana, Snapper Carr, Cyborg, and Mister Miracle had just found the place where the other meta-humans were being kept in storage. Mister Miracle and Cyborg were quickly working on the systems in order to free the captives from their suspended state. This included captives Black Lightning, Geo-Force and Prometheus of the Hybrid as well as some meta-humans that were new and unknown.
“We’ve got trouble!” Batman heard the Atom say on the other end. “I found the labs. Only one was in use, but the experimentee is starting to run amok! He might be headed your way!”
“Copy that,” Batman said. “We’ll keep our eyes out for him as we head back to the ships. You’d better head back that way.”
“Roger,” the Atom said. “One more thing though: looks like the clock is ticking. The aliens said something about an auto-destruct being engaged.”
Batman frowned slightly. Nothing like a little pressure to get things done in time.
Hawk and his partner were supervising the loading of one of the crafts. Dove helped an elderly lady up the boarding ramp to the large spacecraft. Christopher Chance worked his way carefully past on the way down. “How are we doing inside?” the heroine asked.
“I’ve checked out the controls. They seem pretty straightforward,” the investigator said. “This transport is just about filled up with civilians.”
“We have some more left, still, not counting those Batman found in the labs,” Dove said. “We should hold off until we get word.” Chance nodded and returned to the cockpit.
“I hear more approaching!” said Thunderlord, the bald hero from Taiwan, from not too far away.
“We need to keep them away from the ship!” Ice added.
“Come on, people! Let’s move it! We gotta get this bus ready to move out!” Hawk moved into position to help defend the hanger.
“W-w-what do y-y-you want us t-t-to do, Gold?” Tin stuttered. He and the other Metal Men had just finished hauling the last of the people to the ship.
“Everyone needs to get on board safely!” Gold replied. “Metal Men, we need to protect the ship and the boarding area! Go!” The robots followed their leader’s command, altering their shapes to form protective tunnels and barriers.
Metamorpho turned to the blonde woman standing there. “Sapph, go join the others inside! I gotta help out!”
“Oh, Rex,” Sapphire said, “be careful!”
“As careful as can be, baby!” The element man shooed his wife up the ramp and then joined the Metal Men in protecting the craft.
Laser fire started ricocheting about the hanger as a squad of Gordanian guards came through the far hatch. The heroes responded with energy blasts of their own. Both sides seemed less intent at hitting targets and more focused on providing diversionary tactics. A few Dominators hustled along behind the troops, making for another craft.
“Looks like the rats are abandoning the ship!” Hawk said as he raised the weapon he had been toting. “They won’t get far, though!”
“No!” the Atom said, hopping up onto the barrel of the weapon and knocking off the aim. “I just overheard this whole place is going to blow soon! We’ve got to worry more about getting the people out of here and fast!”
“Nuts!” grumbled Hawk.
“What about Bats and the others?” Metamorpho asked. “We can’t just leave them behind!”
“They’re on their way!” the Atom said. “They can grab the craft we came in on!”
“I’ll stay behind,” Mike Tempest, a member of the original Secret Six, volunteered as he appeared down the ramp. “Someone’s got to buy you time while Chance gets you guys clear!”
“Are you sure about this?” Dove asked.
Mike Tempest smiled. “I’ve taken more than my share of risks in my lifetime, little lady, and I’ve survived to tell about them. Now go! All of you!”
Hawk handed the man the blaster rifle he was using. “OK, buddy! But you might need this! Good luck.” The other costumed champions nodded to the man as they moved onto the ship.
“I’ll stay behind, too,” Iron announced. “Give Mr. Tempest some protection until the others get here!”
“You sure, big guy?” Platinum asked.
Iron smiled. “That’s what we heroes do. Go on.”
The gang plank folded in, and the hatch closed tight. The engines roared to life, allowing the craft full of the Earth prisoners to slowly head for the exit of the bay. The fleeing aliens had boarded smaller crafts and taken off as well. For reasons of survival, they left the fight and preferred to take flight.
Mike Tempest and Iron watched the large transport ship take off. Both silently wished it a safe journey and hoped they would soon be joining them.
The sound of another battle down the hallway snapped them back to attention. “Should we investigate?” Iron asked.
Mike smiled. “Let’s do it!”